Distance selling regulations – returning appliances

online consumer rightsIn the UK, when buying online we have rights to cancel after receiving delivery under the distance selling regulations, which have recently been extended from 7 to 14 days by the new EU Consumer Rights Directive. There is a whole range of specific rights but this article focuses on the right to return an appliance bought online for a refund.

Can you send appliance back if you don’t like it?

Under distance selling regulations yes, we don’t have to have any reason whatsoever. We are just entitled to send it back within 14 days of receiving  the goods (not from order date) for a full refund including the delivery costs *. This return period has always been 7 days, but it’s now been doubled. We only have these rights because we are buying blind – which means until the item is delivered and we can see, touch and feel it we can’t be sure it’s what we wanted. I’m not sure why we need 14 days to check it out though, it’s not as if we can use them (see below), this is a time period allowed to unpack and inspect only.

* Refunding the cost of delivery. The trader only has to refund the basic delivery cost of getting the goods to you in the first place, so if you paid extra for an enhanced service such as guaranteed next day delivery they only have to refund the basic cost.

Can you still send it back if you’ve used it?

These rights are simply to protect us from having to keep products we’ve bought expecting one thing (having only been able to judge from a photo and description) and receiving something that looks quite different in real life. The idea that we can use it and then return for a refund is a step too far.

The retailer needs to be able to resell a product. Using any product is accepting it. Once accepted, unless something is covered under the sale of goods act you shouldn’t be able to return it unless by any chance the retailer allows it.

If the appliance is faulty, this comes under different regulation (Consumer rights act – faulty appliances)

Can you send an appliance back if it doesn’t fit?

You should make sure you have measured up properly. Length width and depth sizes should be quoted on any advertisement or web site. If the quoted measurements are wrong (it happens) then the onus should be on the retailer. If you just failed to check and the new one doesn’t fit then technically that’s your fault. However, I would expect most large retailers might accommodate you.

What if you look at appliance in a shop and then order it from their web site?

If you saw it in a shop and then ordered it online the distance selling regulations shouldn’t apply because their purpose is to protect us when we haven’t had an opportunity to examine goods before entering a sales contract. In practice of course most retailers will be unaware of any previous examination, especially any large retailer.

However, if for example you dealt with a small independent shop who remembers you, and they had demonstrated an appliance which you subsequently ordered from their web site, they could dispute any attempt to send it back under distant selling regulations

Do you have to send it back in the original packaging?

Removing packaging is essential in order to see if the appliance is acceptable or not. If an appliance comes with packaging that can’t be refitted there’s nothing we can do about that. I’ve seen cases where retailers have in their terms and conditions that returns must be received in the original packaging, but they can’t insist on that if it’s not possible or practical. The regulations specifically state –

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Packaging: You may ask customers to take care when they open the package or return goods with the original packaging, but you cannot insist on this.   ”

It is wise however to try to remove transit packaging as carefully as possible and try to repack before returning to prevent damage during the return journey. If a retailer claims they received the appliance with dents or scratches this could prove a difficult situation to resolve.

Who pays the costs of returning an appliance?

Most retailers should arrange to get the appliance picked back up using the same people who delivered it although they can still charge to do so if they’ve specified this in terms & conditions and in writing at point of sale. In theory some could insist on you arranging to get them back yourself, which theoretically could happen with a small independent retailer, but again, they must inform you of this in their terms and conditions and in writing (usually on the email confirmation).

How much can they charge? They’d have to make reasonable real-world charges but they could be unexpectedly high because initial delivery charges when purchasing are commonly subsidised. You may have even had free delivery, or paid a relatively modest delivery charge only to find they want substantially more to fetch it back. If you send an appliance back because you’ve changed your mind or don’t like it you may have to pay the “proper” costs, but again, this should be made clear when initially buying so you can decide if it’s acceptable.

Watch out for big American Freezers or large cookers

Return charges for a retailer picking up a very large appliance such as an American fridge freezer or one of the large cookers might be quite shocking. I’ve seen quotes for around £100 (Delivering American-style fridge freezers).

You must get your money refunded within 14 days

You are responsible for returning the items within 14 calendar days of cancelling, and refunds must be paid within 14 calendar days after returning the goods, or with evidence that they were returned.

You must take care of the goods

You need to take reasonable care to ensure that the appliance is returned in good condition and not damaged in transit. If you don’t exercise reasonable care and the goods are damaged when received back they may well make a claim against you for breach of this duty.

This is where saving the packaging, removing it carefully and refitting it prior to being picked up make sense. If you destroyed or threw away the packaging and the appliance gets damaged during its return journey you might be accused of not taking reasonable care and face charges if damage occurs.

What about special orders?

If a product has been specially made for you it can be excluded from the distance selling regulations and you won’t be able to change your mind. However, this exclusion is meant to protect retailers from bespoke orders that would be impossible or difficult to re-sell, or would deteriorate quickly – not “special orders” –

Products may not be returned if they are genuinely tailor-made products. If they are put together by combining off-the-peg options, then they may be returned.   ”

So it doesn’t appear to extend to cover products that they don’t actually stock, even if they specially ordered them for you. These would be “off the peg” appliances rather than tailor-made. It’s possible some might interpret it this way though and refuse to accept back an appliance that they don’t stock (because they would normally find it difficult to sell) but specifically ordered for you. If this happens you would need to seek advice.

Summary of useful points

The distance selling regulations and Consumer Rights Directive from the EU cover further rights and obligations not gone in to on this article. Here’s a short list of some  other relevant points.

  • New legislation from October 1st 2015 says if a product is faulty within 30 days customers are entitled to a full refund if required
  • A retailer’s failure to provide the required information to the customer in the way set out in the regulations, could result in the 14 day cancellation rights being extended by up to a year
  • A deduction can be made by the retailer if the value of the goods has been reduced as a result of the customer handling the goods more than was necessary
  • The extent to which a customer can handle the goods is the same as it would be if they were assessing them in a shop
  • The seller’s terms and conditions or returns policy should state who pays the cost of returning the item. If they don’t state this, then the seller has to cover the cost. In this case, you’re entitled to a refund of the total amount you paid, including costs to ship the item to you, and the fee to return the item. No admin or restocking fees should be charged

More information

This article and the research put into it were inspired after my personal experience of poor distance selling compliance

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14 thoughts on “Distance selling regulations – returning appliances”

  1. What about if a cooker has been installed? I haven’t used it yet but it was connected at delivery. It wasn’t until it was in place that I realised that the front of the cooker came out further than expected when including the handles and control knobs. Because it’s in a corner spot the door doesn’t open fully against the cupboard door and I can’t remove the oven shelves without pulling the appliance forward. The kitchen draw also bangs the control knobs when you open it. There’s enough play in the draw to pull it just enough to the left. The dimensions online were for a depth of 600mm which my old cooker was. Measuring this one I actually get it to 620mm when including the control panel which slopes out at an angle (and 65cm including the door handles).

  2. Hello Debbie. Many people get caught out by protruding parts on the front of appliances. I’ve written an article about this here- Washing machine depth specifications

    It’s ridiculous that measurements usually don’t include handles and knobs or bulbous control panels that can critically affect how an appliance fits. I would think you should be able to return it under the distance selling regulations because they said it is only 600 mm deep but there are parts that protrude and should be warned about for people with doors or drawers opening across the appliance. Hopefully the shop will accept it back.

    1. Thank you very much for your reply, Andy. I’ve also since noticed another error in their website description – it is advertised as having half width grilling when the model doesn’t, which I’m assuming comes under misrepresentation.

      However I’m in two minds as looking at the cooker market there is very little option or quality for the 50cm width cooker. Everything that I have been able to look at so far seems to have protruding dials or bits that stick out at the back. Being able to replace the quality, size and specification I had before seems impossible. Ridiculous when technology and design is supposed to improve.

      Thank you for the link, your other article was very interesting. It seems very shortsighted for retailers and manufacturers not to include such important details when so many of us live in houses or flats where space in the kitchen is very much at a premium. I don’t have the option to move where the cooker is situated as the only other place would site it next to the fridge freezer, a definite no-no. And being in a flat offers no option of a utility or garage location to shift appliances out to make space.

      Wit online purchases taking over more it also means you can not view many, if not most of the models on offer to make our own measurements, thus making these types of details very important. I’m not sure whether this is just effecting the cooker market or all appliances.

      Anyway, many thanks again.

  3. Hi wonder if you could give me advice 4 months ago i brought candy grand comfort 7kg 1400 rmp . the washer making funny noise and smoke was coming out of drum. contacted argos they put us through to candy . The engineer in hes own words its knackered belt had cut through the drum stuck to it. Engineer said he have to order it from italy? . I would have thought they replace with a new one.

  4. I bought a Logik washing machine yesterday and it spin loudly and dancing round the kitchen that my ground floor neighbour wasn’t happy. As the machine has been connected and used, am i able to return or exchange it.

  5. Have you properly removed all the transit packaging? That would cause the washer to bounce around the kitchen because the suspension would be seized up. Other than that if it’s faulty you can demand a replacement although it’s rare for a washing machine to be noisy from new.

  6. Can you advise if I can return an oven that’s been used once of if the description was false?
    I purchased online and chose the model on AO website specifically because the description stated it has a triple glazed cool glass door. (Ive printed copies of the page) It was installed by a fitter yesterday and I used it for first time last night. The glass became extremely hot, to the point it could burn.
    On inspection I noticed that it isn’t triple glazed.
    Can I ask them to take it back?

  7. Hello Daniela. I would think yes you should be able to return it. If the cooker is definitely described as a triple glazed glass door and yours isn’t then it isn’t as described. This is particularly relevant if you specifically wanted one with a cool glass door. I would think it very reasonable to have not noticed this issue until you had used the cooker. I wouldn’t even mention that it has been used, I would expect it highly difficult for anyone to know anyway. But as I said, even if you have used it a few times it is perfectly reasonable for you to have never noticed until you felt the heat on the door glass and then on closer inspection saw that it wasn’t fitted with a triple glazed one as described.

  8. I have bought a Beko washing machine (distance selling) it arrived under the supervision of my son aged 18, was unpacked by the delivery man and left for me to plumb in (a service I did not request). I did this upon my return from work, only to notice the quality of goods where not as I had expected and it is extremely noisy. I called the shop but they will not agree to an exchange for a better model because it has been used. What are my rights, even though I have used it once.

  9. Andy Trigg (Whitegoodshelp)

    Hello Melanie. I don’t think you have any rights under The distance selling regulations. They are designed to give us the same chance to see a product before we buy that we have in a shop. So if for example you’d been to Currys or John Lewis, you would have been able to see its size, its real colour (not always accurate in photos), and get a feel for its general quality.

    You would commonly be able to open the door, pull the drawer out and generally see exactly what you are buying. None of this is possible when buying from distance. So when the product arrives and we unpack it we get to see it properly. At that stage if it’s a different colour to how it looked in the brochure or online, or it looks poorly made, or inappropriate in some way that you could have only known when you are stood in front of it – that’s when it should be rejected.

    Your issue is a more normal consumer issue. If you believe the washing machine is faulty you need to reject it under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (formally Sale of goods act). Try my other article here How to get a faulty washing machine replaced. Just make sure it’s installed properly first and the transit packaging has been removed properly. If transit packaging is still in, the washer will jump around on spin.

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